Monday, November 13, 2017

Deep Introspection


**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**


Introspection is defined as the, ‘Contemplation of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sensations; self-examination; heart-searching.’

As I daily live out this life of following God and surrendering to what God wishes to do in and through me, as well as remaining physically ready for whatever comes next, there exists a common denominator within me. One that causes me great introspection throughout this faith walk. I suspect it will keep resonating within me until the denominator is quenched once and for all…but can it? The denominator I speak of is feeling alone.

I have often found myself standing in the midst of people, even chaos, and being unable to deny the unmistakable gnawing of feeling so alone. “But you are not alone, my Child,” God says. “I know I’m not totally alone God, for I have You", I reply. “But I really do feel alone, Lord", I add.

I can’t seem to explain or describe my ‘aloneness’ in relation to what that feeling stirs within me. Quite often I have to be content to feel alone and move forward while questions of, “Will I ever stop feeling like a foreigner in a strange land? Will I ever stop feeling so alone?”, make a mess of my already perplexed mind.

They say, “Don’t have any regrets.” Before becoming a Christian, I lived a smeared and dirty life filled with regrets. Regret for all the horrible things I did and how unworthy those horrible things made me feel about myself. Then when I became a Christian, all of that changed in an instant and I was released from every regret and sinful deed. I was freed.

Now I live a life knowing I will never have regrets because when my heart is impressed to help someone, I’ll help. When I’m prompted to tell someone I care or that I love them, that's what I'll do. Just because I feel alone, doesn’t mean I can’t extend a word of encouragement to someone else who might be feeling the same.

We all long to be loved and cared for and our hearts really do cry out...for something. Something beyond us and our understanding. I often cry out to God from my heart for all the desires that are housed there but the best takes time and that means waiting.

So I have to wait and I have to be patient. I can barely type that word without laughing out loud for I am not the most patient woman but my many experiences with God have, well, stretched me to grow into a state of being patient as I, often, need to be.

As long as I have known God I know He has a sense of humor. I can’t always say that it’s the kind of humor that I can appreciate but it does make Him easier to relate to. He knows my inner hurts and needs and He is always working in me and my life, even though I may not see any progress. In turn, I know the commitment I have made to Him because of wanting His very best for me.

As for my aloneness? Well, someone reminded me of how alone Paul must have felt. Paul is a fellow in the Bible who was called to do God’s work and he was opposed a lot for doing so. So much that he only had a few good friends who stood by him as he did the work he needed to do. My heart goes out to Paul, but it was as though his dedication to God always seemed to mask that aloneness and he just kept going.

In my own experience, every time I've been met with this feeling of being alone, God has always met me there, saying in His still, small voice, "You're never alone, beloved, for I am here with you." His voice soothes and satiates me until the next time I feel alone, for it won't truly be satisfied until I'm with Him in eternity.

Encouragement for the week:

Ever feel alone? It's a natural, human response that we all go through from time to time.

How do you fill the loneliness? Is the solution lasting or fleeting?

If you are a Christian, you know how a dedicated life to God can be lonely sometimes but you also know that nothing truly satisfies like a deep, intimate relationship with God. He will fill you to overflowing and meet you in the times of feeling alone.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He can fill the spaces of loneliness in ways the world never will. He is the 'something' your heart is longing for.


Monday, November 6, 2017

In The Line Of Fire

**Photo courtesty of google.com**

In this movie, Clint Eastwood's character, Frank Horrigan, plays a Secret Service agent in charge of protecting the personal safety of the President of the United States. As the story unfolds, Frank becomes the target of an ex-CIA assassin, turned would-be killer, who wants to take out the current president.

This foe taunts Frank with detailed information from his past including a failed attempt to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, whom Frank was assigned to protect early in his Secret Service career.

As this dramatic thriller comes to a close, Frank successfully thwarts the assassination attempt and the target is removed from Frank's character and reputation, along with the assassin. Frank is, again, known as an agent of honor and integrity.

Do you ever feel like you're walking through life with a bullseye on your forehead? That you're being shamed, judged, or gossiped about by others without ever understanding why? There have been many times in my life when I have been misunderstood. When a look on my face seemed to translate into a negative disposition to others, without them ever saying a word.

When non-malicious behavior, on my part, was deemed overtly malicious by someone who never asked a single question. It was extremely disheartening for me to find out that my attitude, personality, and habits were being formed by others who had not only never talked to me but who never knew me.

For whatever reason, the person never took the time to engage in a conversation with me and really get to know me. To find out how I tick, what my facial expressions truly mean, and what motivations lie behind my actions.

So, how can you find out who someone is and what lies behind their serious face? Conversation. Whether in person or over the phone, you can get to know a person pretty well and their demeanor, feelings, motives, and personality.

In a short period of time, you can find out what prompts that person to anger, disinterest, or indifference. Next thing you know, the person you used to target with your bullish words and gossipy ways, turns out to be a pretty decent human being. You have become friends with someone who is incredibly cool and it's all because you took away the veil of your own judgement and adopted an accepting attitude.

There is a book in the Bible called Matthew and in chapter 1, verse 7, it says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." (NIV) Wow. That's pretty harsh, isn't it? Not really because what goes around, really does come around and Jesus knew that better than anyone. That's what His perfection and divine knowledge were all about. He could always call things out that other people never saw.

I used to be a person who judged others negatively and what I put out, eventually came back onto me by others judging me unfairly. So the next time someone tells you not to judge a book by its cover, take it to heart before making your next move.

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever been unfairly judged, feeling like the bullseye on a target? It can be intimidating, disheartening and hurtful.

It matters that you're understood and not unjustly viewed through a skewed lens. Though others may judge you, don't let the pain of their untrue assessment stop you from reaching out to someone you may have judged in the past.

If you are a Christian, the words of Jesus should be a stark reminder of how we should be conducting ourselves as His followers. Be a person who takes the time to get to know someone who is different from you for they may not yet know about Jesus.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and find Him. He holds no judgement toward you. He loves you and wants you to experience an abundant life without judgement toward yourself and others.




Monday, October 30, 2017

Two Weeks Notice

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**

In this romantic comedy, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant's characters are at odds for most of the film. She a passionate and dedicated environmental lawyer, he an indecisive billionaire, join forces as part of a deal to preserve a local community center.

Throughout the film, Grant's character, George, can't seem to make any decisions without Sandra's character, Lucy's help. He also doesn't have the same kinds of values that Lucy possesses and considers important as a business man. Like being a man of integrity.

This becomes evident as the film progresses and George breaks his word to Lucy about saving the community center. The same center Lucy had been pouring her heart and legal wit into. In some ways, while Lucy expresses her disappointment in George, his actions don't come as a complete surprise to her.

However, like any romantic comedy, the movie doesn't end there. George finds his way to Lucy's new job office, makes amends by reading a speech saying he is keeping the community center and he professes his affections for her. Looks like some of Lucy's values rubbed off on George.

What we value in our lives has a significant impact on who we are. Not just inwardly but also outwardly, for others to see. If we value honesty, then we will be truthful in what we say. If we value integrity, like Lucy did, we will be someone of our word. We will follow through with a pledge we have verbalized.

A while back, I had the opportunity to identify my own values. The things in my life that I determine to live by like faith, compassion, love, and silliness to name a few. While there were eighty-four possible values to choose from, I was asked to make a list of my top ten. That was tough.

Values are something that we will hold on to, no matter what. They will be the very things we will never compromise ourselves over just to suit a situation or someone's influence. The things that shape us into better individuals and give us peace when we stand firm in them.

My faith has been held as the highest ranked value in my life. It's something I don't plan on compromising. Just like my other values - peace, understanding, wisdom, integrity, health, and so on. I think that once any one of those values are threatened with compromise, it's time to re-evaluate the environment in which it's being compromised.

Nothing is worth sacrificing one's own well being in order to meet the acceptance of a situation or person that may change in a matter of seconds. Values are like a compass, as the instructor of the value exercise said. Once you get off course of your own values, things change. You change.

It could be a change in demeanor, emotion, or behavior. Then there is an ill-ease followed by a lack of confidence to go in a different direction, away from your value. Next thing you know, you're feeling awful and saying things you have no idea from where they came.

In the Bible, there is a book called Matthew. In chapter 5, verse 37, it says, "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No', 'No'..." In other words, be sure of your answer. Be confident when standing strong in your personal values. They are a window into the person you are. Never compromise them.

Encouragement for the week:

We can be challenged, sometimes daily, in the things we value. It's important to know where we stand and the things we will never waver on.

You have values for a reason and they matter to you. Don't be afraid to stand firm in them or go against opposition in order to protect them.

If you are a Christian, you know how much God values you. He has also placed strong and important values within you. Always stay on course by never compromising those values.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He values you and desires to have you live out your personal values with strength and confidence.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Indy, Look Out!

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**

For some, Indiana Jones is one of the most iconic fictional adventure characters. The Indiana Jones movies never lack for adventure or death defying scenes. In one of the franchise films, 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', Indy, played by Harrison Ford, is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant which is believed to still hold the Ten Commandments.

Indy is not alone in the pursuit of this ancient artifact so getting to it before the other party does is critical. He must act fast. Through no fault of his own, Indy ends up pairing with an ex-flame along the way and the adventure takes them from Nepal to Cairo.

In one particular scene, Indy comes face to face with a childhood fear. Upon arriving at the Well of the Souls, Indiana peers down to find that the ground is moving. Asking for a torch and throwing it into the pit, his fear is now a reality. Snakes. A lot of snakes. Ten thousand to be exact.

However, against all odds and, most definitely, against his will, Indy enters the pit and faces his fear so that his quest can continue. Certainly, the photo of him above says everything about how he is feeling in those moments.

There are so many things in the world and our lives that can cause fear. War, death, uncertainty about the future, joblessness, debt, and others. Odds seem to be stacked against us when we are facing fear. Often, we wonder if we'll ever overcome it.

For me, the past year and a half of being unemployed has been an...interesting time. From doubt to purposelessness, fear to anxiety, I have experienced a gamut of thoughts and emotions that would, sometimes, overwhelm me. It used to be the small things that scared me - darkness, spiders, snakes.

Yet, now that I'm older and have experienced so much more of life, it's the bigger things that strike fear into my heart. Like not fully knowing the meaning and purpose of my life, wondering if I am just wasting time until I die, or if I'm missing out on a huge blessing because I don't take chances.

Without getting overly profound with the fear-driven questions and thoughts, I have to stop myself from 'making a mountain out of a mole hill', as it were and go back to the basics of where I stand right now, both as a woman and child of God.

While I can, easily, think of all the things that could happen, increasing my fears, it's better to take a step back and realize, through common sense and wisdom, that the majority of the things I dream up from the stronghold of fear, will never happen. There are even statistics that support this.

For me, reading the Bible and talking to God brings peace that drowns out all the fearful things I find myself conjuring up. It's knowing God in relationship that brings me out of fear and helps me to see things as they really are. God cares so much about how we feel when we are afraid that He loves to remind us that there is no fear in Him.

In fact, His reminders are throughout the Bible. One example is found in a book called Deuteronomy, chapter 20, which says, "...Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified...". Not only are we told not to fear once, but four times in the same sentence. That's how important it is not to have or hold on to fear. That brings me great reassurance and a posture of fearlessness.

So, when it seems that my world is turning upside down and I have no idea what the future holds, I know who holds me and is in control of everything and there is no longer any room for fear. It's a principle I visit each time fear tries to creep in.

Indy, I feel your fears when it comes to snakes. I can only handle a gardener snake, at best. May we never allow the fears in our lives to take hold or take over to the point of no longer living a full and adventurous life sans Indiana Jones.

Encouragement for the week:

Still unemployed, I try not to be afraid of my future. I keep fighting through the fear to see a God that cares just as much about my situation as I fear it.

Yet, fearing too many things, too much, will stop us from living a good life. Say, "No" to fear and walk on the heads of the snakes in your life.

If you are a Christian, God tells us to have no fear. He is in control and knows everything coming up in our lives before we enter it. Continue to live in the fact that difficulty does not reach us without it having passed through God first.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and find Him. He will bring relief from your fears, whatever they are, and give you the full life you long to live.








Monday, October 16, 2017

Sixteen Candles

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**

In Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald's character, Samantha, is engaged in the most excruciating journey of her life - the teenage years. While battling internal angst, Samantha is also met with external chaos as her family plans and prepares for the wedding of her older sister.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the matrimonial event exists Sam's upcoming and much anticipated right of passage - her sixteenth birthday. Even though most of the attention is focused on her sister, Sam still holds to the expected celebration she imagines will be thrown by her odd, yet loving family.

The morning of her birthday brings great hope which is soon crushed by non-existent acknowledgement of the most important day that could ever happen to a hormonally raging teen. Nothing from her mother. No cards or wishes from her grandparents. Not a word from anyone. Nothing. She's soon aware of the belief that no one cares. She's crushed.

To top it all off, Sam pines for the most popular senior in her school - Jake. A rugged fellow who happens to be dating the most popular girl in her school. In Sam's mind, Jake doesn't even know she exists. Life sucks.

It's never easy to think that no one cares, especially when the thought becomes a whole hearted belief and discouragement sets in. There have been times when I have felt the same. When a text message doesn't come or the phone doesn't ring and an entire day goes by in technological silence. When I think about friends in my life that I, rarely, hear from except on my birthday.

I have to make a decision to get away from that thought process, and soon, because I know what comes next - despair. Despair doesn't wait long to happen once you're already discouraged or disappointed about a situation in life and it can take root for hours, even days, if you don't change your mind.

Fortunately, over the years, I've come to not only read, but also embrace and believe a great truth that God has told me in His Word, the Bible. It is found in the book of 1 Peter, and says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (5:7 NIV) No matter if I am thinking or feeling uncared for, these things are temporary and don't reflect the truth above.

Someone does care, a lot. Someone good, loving, and faithful cares for me and you and He always will even though we may think that others don't. That is a reassuring reality in amongst the pathways in life that may appear otherwise.

Samantha's story doesn't end in despair with a diss from her entire family or the beau she dreams about. In fact, it begins with a heartfelt apology from her father and mother and ends with Jake stealing her away from her sister's wedding. The scene moves to them sitting across from each other on a kitchen table. Between them is a lit birthday cake with sixteen candles and Sam knows that someone cares.

Encouragement for the week:

Being human means moving through a multitude of feelings and thoughts that can leave us in an emotional upheaval.

Feeling like someone doesn't care is often hurtful and disappointing but it isn't the truth.

If you are a Christian, you have the joy and security of knowing that God cares for you deeply and constantly. Don't let the feelings of the moment overrule the facts of God's love and care for you.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He is ready to show you how much He cares for you and it is something that never ends when you share a relationship with Him.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?


**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**

Skipping school was never more appealing than when Matthew Broderick, as Ferris Bueller, brilliantly planned and carried out his absence in the movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He further justifies the truant behavior with, "How could I possibly be able to handle school on a day like this?" (a perfect, sunny day).

While I would never recommend truancy to anyone, there was a time I felt brazen enough to skip out when in highschool. Well, okay, it was only one class and that one time I skipped out, was the one time I got caught and left hung out to dry by my friends. Needless to say, it was never attempted again. I am, definitely, no Ferris Bueller, but I digress.

Ferris goes to great lengths to skip with the help of his best friend, Cameron, who alters his voice to sound like Ferris' father and, reluctantly, gets Ferris excused from the day's scholastic activities. Cameron was legitimately sick the day that Ferris recruited him to help aid and abet his actions. Cameron was also a worrier. Especially when Ferris convinced him to take his father's prized possession, a 1961 Ferrari, as their mode of transportation for the day.

After picking up Ferris' girlfriend, Sloane, the three went on to experience unexpected and hilarious hijinks in the city of Chicago. Including Ferris' impromptu joining on a Von Steuben Day parade float and lip-syncing Wayne Newton's 'Danke Schoen'. Cameron barely cracked a smile the entire time while continuing to fret about the situation surrounding the 'borrowing' of his father's car. You could see the anxiety written all over Cameron's face.

I can relate to what Cameron was going through. Sometimes there are things in life that get us down and cause us to worry and be anxious. I was laid off from my full time job over a year ago and it's been tough trying to find another one. At times, it has been a challenge putting aside my worry and anxiety about it especially knowing that my savings will eventually run out.

It's times like that when I need to remember my life is more than what I am seeing in the moment. That there is someone in my corner who is looking out for me and cares about every thing that concerns me. That someone is God and He has been instrumental in pulling my attention away from my would-be hopeless situation and focusing on who He is.

There is nothing I care about in my life that He doesn't care about more. Even the fact that I have been unemployed for this long. Reading the Bible helps me to get back to having the proper perspective in times of worry and anxiety. The perspective that God will never let me down. He is faithful.

In fact, my mind slows down and my heart stops racing when I read Philippians 4:6, which says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." This is something that God tells us to do because fretting about anything won't help us, but it will hurt us. We'll lose sleep, get sick, and start to dream up a whole host of other scenarios that will, realistically, never happen.

All of those things have happened to me as a result of allowing worry to consume my thoughts, which then creeps into my heart and then I lose what peace resided there. Though, the deep rooted peace that comes from God never leaves me even though I may not sense it during an overwhelming time.

I pray a lot, everyday. For a job, for help, for healing, and for so many other things. Knowing that I can always do that, brings me back to what was once lacking in the midst of my unsettledness - peace.

Celebrating this day of thanksgiving magnifies the above verse into so much more than being grateful for turkey and stuffing. Although, tryptophan is one of the best after effects of eating that mighty bird. Praying, and thanking God while doing it, brings so much more into my heart that I had forgotten, existed. A fresh, new perspective that helps to alleviate a, once, heavy and worried heart.

I never need to be anxious about anything because in everything, I know that I can go to God with whatever is worrying me and He understands and helps me through it all until I come to that beautiful place of peace.

Encouragement for the week:

The past month seems to have been riddled with a lot of things, not only beyond our control, but beyond our comprehension. Like Las Vegas, Edmonton, Paris, London, and the hurricanes.

It's easy to fall into a state of worry and concern when there is so much bad news and a struggle to make sense of the senseless.

If you are a Christian, you know the importance and saving grace of having an intimate relationship with God. That He can give you everything you need in a time of worry or anxiety. That if you put all things into His hands, He will give you the peace beyond understanding and guard your heart and mind.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and find Him and all the peace that He offers as part of a relationship with Him. That peace will help you cope with the things in your life that you can't understand and that bring worry and anxiety.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Still

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face..."
 - 1 Corinthians 13:12

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**


The contemplative things of life,
The joys, some pain, and wayward strife.

From ashes deep, see beauty come,
A precious gift, indeed, for some.

But how can we still understand,
Of someone else's willing hand.

To take a life by murderous scheme,
In this, our world, I could not dream.

That plots and plans would lead us here,
Into a seeming place of fear.

When violence breaks and threats abound,
We wonder where our hope is found.

Through bloodshed there is something bright,
Some shining glimpse, a piercing light.

Though evil tries to tear apart,
The worried mind and hurting heart.

There is no thing that'd ever be,
The crush or kill of unity.

Creation stands in peace and love,
To overcome and stand above.

The trials that test our strength and will,
In prayer the soul shall triumph, still.


Encouragement for the week:

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada were stark reminders that evil lurks. This poem is for those affected by these events.

We can never quite figure out why things happen, brutal things.

Lives can be taken in a heartbeat and without remorse. May we never cease to come together in unity and stand on peace and love.

If you are a Christian, you know that Satan looks to steal, kill, and destroy God's children. Always be on guard and ready with your armor of God.

If you are not a Christian and were unsettled by these recent events, you can look for Jesus and find Him. He will bring you hope during times of uncertainty in our world.